U.S. Defense Secretary Wants Pentagon to Employ Marijuana Users

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Although the United States government still considers marijuana one of the most dangerous drugs in the world, the nation’s leading defense official says he does not believe a job applicant’s history with the herb should be a contributing factor in disqualifying them from military service.

Earlier this week, during TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF event, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told those in attendance that the Pentagon would be open to hiring individuals that have experimented with marijuana. Answering a question about whether he would ever consider offering an engineering position to someone who may have smoked weed at the Burning Man festival, Carter replied, “yes, we can be flexible in that regard, and we need to.”

Carter said the Pentagon is fully aware that times are changing with respect to marijuana prohibition, and with that comes the need to be more accommodating to those job candidates that may have used the substance at some point in their life.

“In that and many other ways, we need to, while protecting ourselves and doing the appropriate things to make sure that it’s safe to entrust information with people, we need to understand — and we do — the way people [and] lives have changed, not hold against them things that they’ve done when they were younger,” he said.

However, while it is certainly encouraging that a leading U.S. military official would support an overhaul of departmental policies that make it easier for cannabis users to secure employment inside the nation’s Mecca of defense, Carter’s “when they were younger” comment calls to question: Just how much past marijuana consumption would a job applicant be permitted in order to remain in good standing with the Pentagon?

Despite the answer being unclear, there is no doubt that a shift is happening inside the guts of Uncle Sam over whether or not to consider hiring people with a history of marijuana use.

In fact, FBI Director James Comey admitted in 2014 that the current policy on disqualifying job applicants based on cannabis consumption was causing the Bureau to miss out on some talented hackers.

Last year, a report from the Justice Department echoed this sentiment, stating that “the recruitment and retention of cyber personnel is an ongoing challenge for the FBI,” since it “loses a significant number of people who may be interested because applicants “must not have used marijuana in the past 3 years.”

Although Secretary of Defense Carter did not distinguish the level of change he would like to see happen with the Pentagon’s policy on marijuana use, his latest comments have undoubtedly earned him the respect of those fighting to change the nation’s drug laws.

Tom Angell of the national cannabis advocacy group the Marijuana Majority called Carter a “surprising new ally” for the movement.

“This is an amazing sign of how effective our movement has been at beginning to erase the stigma and discrimination that people who use marijuana have faced for far too long,” Angell said in a news release. “Of course, we still have much work to do—and laws to change—but make no mistake: We are winning.”

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